I know, the title of this thread is a bit of an oxymoron. How can one eat out, at home? I'm here to tell you that you can enjoy food that is delicious, and just as good as your favorite chain restaurant right in your own kitchen, and without a significant amount of fuss, either.
These ideas were born of The Husband and I's affinity for eating out, and our bank statement's aversion to it. Adding it all up one month, we were simply shocked to find out how much money we were spending on eating out. Now don't get me wrong, a nice dinner date, with your loved one is an absolute must in my book, but we were eating out (with the kids in tow) at least 3-4 times per week, adding up to a staggering $500-$600 per month. Ouch, right? So, I decided to find a way to enjoy some of our favorite restaurant meals, at home, and the amount of money we're saving is insane!
The first recipe that we've pretty much perfected was a weekly staple in our house prior to the big switch; macaroni grill chicken alfredo, along with their absolutely to die for rosemary bread.
The sauce recipe is actually the first recipe that I got from one of my in-laws, back when my husband and I were still engaged. We went up to Idaho to visit The Husband's brother, Dayne, and his wife, Sarah made us some alfredo sauce that rivaled any restaurant. This is no easy task, as I've tried just about every brand of jarred alfredo sauce on the store shelves, and found them to be downright disgusting. I won't even use them in a pinch. So, a big thank you to Sarah, for jump-starting this recipe! Sarah is also famous, in The Family, for her salsa, and italian bread recipes!
Now, I do have to apologize in advance that I don't have any "finished product" photos of the delicious rosemary bread. I decided to set the bowl outside to rise, since it was nice and warm, and forgot all about it for several hours. The wind blew off the towel, and I was left with a crusty, nasty mess. So, I couldn't actually bake it. What can I say, we all make mistakes! But, take my word for it, this bread is delicious, and it goes so perfectly with the chicken alfredo that I just didn't want to skip it until I had time to make it again. Now, I used to be VERY intimidating by bread making. All those artisan loaves just struck fear into me, and visions of sore arms after hours of kneading. But this bread could not be more simple. Easy to make in either your Kitchen-Aid, Bosch, or other electric mixer, meaning NO HAND KNEADING. Easy=beautiful for me!
And, for a bit of housekeeping, I realized that it would be very difficult for the readers of this blog to print out the recipes, due to the large amount of photos on each post. As it stands right now, I have no clue how to increase the print functionality of this website. But, I promise to learn, and have a better solution for the future. Until then, please bear with me! I may just include a text-only version of each recipe below the photo-laden part until I come up with a more permanent solution.
Hallelujahs: Delicious, and much cheaper than eating out, easy to make
Hellfires: Honestly, not many. It does take about 45 minutes-1 hour, which is sort of time consuming, but well worth the wait!
1 lb of boneless skinless chicken breasts/tenderloins
1/4-1/2 cup Kraft Tuscan House Italian Salad Dressing
Italian Seasoning, Garlic Powder, Salt, Pepper, and Onion Powder to taste
1 pint of heavy cream, or half & half
1 stick of butter
2 tablespoons of cream cheese (1 oz) 2-4 tsp garlic powder
A Pinch or Two of Parsley flakes (dried or fresh)
Salt, Pepper to Taste
1/2-3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese (NOT the stuff in the green canister)
-Boil a large pot of water/salt for your pasta. I usually prefer bowtie (farfalle for you high fallutin' types) noodles for this recipe, but I didn't have any, and I had a bunch of egg noodles, which worked just fine.
-Cook pasta according to package directions.
-Meanwhile, cut your chicken tenderloins/breasts into small pieces. I just use the frozen bag of chicken tenderloins from Costco, because they are cheap, and work just fine for this. Plus, I always have plenty of them on hand.
-Add them to your deep frying pan, along with the salad dressing, and seasonings. Stir it around, to get everything well incorporated, and turn burner on med-high. Cover, and begin sauce.
-In a medium sized saucepan, combine butter, and cream cheese, and melt over low-medium heat, whisking occasionally.
-Once they melt together, whisk in the heavy cream, or half and half.
-Note, I am usually skeptical about using anything but heavy cream in recipes. I mean, lower calories are great, and all, but if it also equals lower taste, then it's just not worth it to me. But, in this case, I happened to have a bunch of half & half left over from a cake recipe, and it tasted every bit as good as with the heavy cream. So feel free to use whatever you have on hand. Except for milk, that would be too thin for my liking.
-Reduce heat to low, and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes or so. It's really important here to cook this on low. If you heat it too high, the emulsification will "break," and your butter will separate from the half & half.
-Add the garlic powder (we LOVE garlic, so I add a LOT), salt, and pepper, and allow to cook for another 5 minutes on low heat.
-I usually add a couple of pinches of parsley here, too, but I forgot to throw it in there in these photos. If you don't have it, don't sweat it.
-Add your parmesan cheese. Please, use shredded parmesan cheese, either fresh or from the bag, but whatever you do, do not use the grated stuff in the green canister. It lends a very grainy texture to the sauce, which is not pleasing. Start with 1/2 cup, and taste the sauce, before adding all 3/4 cup. Just keep adding until you get the texture/taste you prefer. You'll need to whisk vigorously to get it all to combine.
-Meanwhile, when your chicken is cooked through, remove the lid, and begin to brown it, getting some nice color on all sides. I actually prefer NOT to use a non-stick pan for this part, so that you get all kinds of nice, brown bits on the bottom of the pan for the sauce to pick up. The non-stick pan I used here did not lend itself to those little lovelies, and I missed them!
-Pour the sauce into your pan with the chicken, and stir, over low/medium heat, scraping up all the brown bits on the bottom of your pan. This should change the color of your sauce, to a deeper blond-like color.
-After draining your pasta, add it to the sauce/chicken mixture, and stir until all noodles are combined.
Hallelujahs: Delicious, and about as close to the real thing as you can get, REALLY simple, and hard to mess up!
Hellfires: Time consuming (you have to wait for it to rise), and it doesn't really store well. I tried to double the recipe, and save the extra loaves in Ziploc bags once, and they just got soggy, so you really need to eat them the day you make them.
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons rosemary
2 tablespoons butter
-Place your water, sugar, and yeast in your mixer bowl, and allow to proof (just let it sit there!) for 5-10 minutes until it's all foamy, and bubbly like so:
-And for a random, FYI, the science, and chemistry of how yeast ferments/respires is actually pretty fascinating. It's actually a living organism you're putting into your bread, and then killing when you bake it! The "holes" in your bread are actually the spaces where the yeast used to reside, fermenting the sugars, and creating Carbon Dioxide (bubbles). If you ever have time, look it up, it's pretty cool!
-After the yeast has gotten nice, and foamy, add your butter, flour, and rosemary. I used fresh rosemary this time, because I had a TON of it in my garden. It smelled DIVINE! But, dried rosemary works well here, too.
Rosemary (kind of looks, and smells, like a fresh Christmas tree, don't you think?)
-Turn on your kitchen appliance, and allow it to come together until it is smooth, and elastic. In my Bosch, at high speed, this takes about 4-5 minutes. It is going to be a very sticky bread. If it's too sticky, add some flour, but the less flour you use, the better the bread will be.
The Bosch in action:
-Once the dough has been sufficiently kneaded, place into oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap (this works better for me than a towel), and set in warm, dry place to rise.
-Allow it to rise until it has doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
-Preheat oven to 375*
-Once it has risen, punch it down, which means exactly what it says. Ball up your fist, pull it back, and take out all your frustrations on that poor little loaf of bread.
-Separate into two halves, and shape into balls.
-Add some additional rosemary on the top of each loaf, and press it lightly into the dough.
-Place on greased baking sheet, and allow to rise for an additional 45 minutes.
-Bake for 15-20 minutes until nice, and golden brown on top.
-As soon as you take it out of the oven, smear it with butter, and sprinkle with coarse Kosher salt.
-Eat immediately, dipping into alfredo sauce, Yum!
Original bread recipe can be found at: http://www.recipezaar.com/recipe/Romanos-Macaroni-Grill-Rosemary-Bread-64446